By Drew D. / June 8th, 2023
I feel like I can always turn to a Kirby title when I’m emotionally low. Charming, candid, and overall uplifting, the Kirby games forever deliver fun, leisurely experiences without the need to stress or exert. My last few reviews touch upon games that offer this; ones which demand very little and offer us much more. The Kirby series has taken this and made it a style of its very own, offering us a unique escape full of wonder and magic which only a lovable puffball like Kirby can take us on. In Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, this escape is more an escapade of secrets and discovery. Very much an adventure full of hidden paths to uncover and large worlds to explore, this longer Kirby installment yet has plenty of easygoing fun to swiftly brighten and uplift any mood.
In Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, a Mirror World resides above Dream Land, whose mirrors may reflect, and make reality, the wishes of those that may peer into them. One day, a malevolent force enters the Mirror World, reflecting its own evil intentions upon the mirrors, thus plunging the Mirror World into darkness. Meta Knight recognizes that this darkness threatens both the Mirror World and Dream Land, and so sets off to the Mirror World. Meanwhile, Kirby is confronted by a shadow resembling Meta Knight and is soon split into four copies of himself. The shadow takes off towards the Mirror World and the four Kirbys give chase. Upon their arrival, they see the real Meta Knight being cast into a mirror by the shadow, who then breaks said mirror, and scatters its fragments across the Mirror World. The four Kirbys must now collect the fragments, track down this shadow to save Meta Knight, and stop the threat to both the Mirror World and Dream Land.
Like most Kirby titles, we’re offered just enough story to give background and reason for the adventure Kirby is setting out upon. And although the story is not overly unique, in fact, collecting fragments of a plot device is a Kirby staple, it possesses enough charm, familiarity, and ease of understanding to make the game both attractive to its fans and easily accessible to all. Young, old, experienced, or newcomers, the story is simple and inviting. Ultimately, the pure, innocent plot serves as a perfect segue into what truly makes a Kirby game a Kirby game; its gameplay.
Like most Kirby games, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror’s gameplay offers simple, pure fun that any level of player can enjoy. And with a suitable challenge level, as well as easy-to-master controls, attention can be fully given to the experience. Starting with the familiar, Amazing Mirror is an action platformer that sees Kirby traversing colorful worlds, avoiding hazards, and mowing down loads of enemies by using them as projectiles, or by copying their abilities. The abilities Kirby can copy are plentiful, ranging from familiar favorites to several new ones, such as the Smash ability, which lets Kirby use some of his Smash Bros move set. Also, several of the well-known abilities have been expanded to give Kirby additional ways to attack with them, akin to Kirby’s Super Star. Needless to say, learning of an ability’s additions and being pleasantly surprised is a blast.
Although there are similarities aplenty to other Kirby titles, Amazing Mirror does feature a few unique changes that add a bit of variety to the classic Kirby formula. Perhaps the standout difference is the Metroidvania style implemented for this title. Rather than a linear series of worlds and stages, players must traverse an interconnected world whose many paths must be discovered, or unlocked using specific abilities to advance. Those abilities are usually nearby or near enough to a door leading back to the central hub area, so the task is never daunting. Rather, the way this style is implemented simply lets you explore spans of different worlds and rewards you when you take note and remember hints, or when you have the chance to revisit. I would say the Metroidvania style has been adapted to perfectly fit the delightful Kirby mood and feel.
Other unique additions to gameplay include the phone, which summons the other Kirbys, or a warp star, and multiplayer. With the phone, the other Kirbys can be called for simple actions like having them hold down switches to open doors, or to just cause a bit of havoc when overwhelmed by enemies. Calling the other Kirbys during a boss fight possesses its own particular brand of adorable chaos. The warp star takes you back to the central hub, either when needing a quick escape or to traverse the world quickly. As for multiplayer, on the Game Boy Advance, it allowed up to four to connect and play together. In regards to current availability and hardware, we can only wait and see if the potential Nintendo Switch release will remodel the multiplayer for local and/or online play.
Another aspect of gameplay that departs from the norm, Amazing Mirror features a slightly higher than expected challenge level. Narrow areas of play filled with enemies is a frequently used design, which may test unprepared players. Also, unique hazards and level layouts that will test your platforming add to the challenge. New, tougher enemies add to the challenge too, as these require more than one or two hits to defeat, as well as a bit of caution when approached. I appreciate the danger they add, though I found they can also slow a faster play pace. And lastly, the boss battles have their intimidating moments, though I found them far more entertaining than difficult, with a clever blend of familiar and unique. Altogether, the challenge level is, again, a bit higher than expected, along the lines of Kirby 3, yet a little patience and practice will always see you through.
Taken in its entirety, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror’s gameplay is impressive. The level designs are imaginative and various, inviting players to explore and engage. The execution of the Metroidvania style is noteworthy, as it adds much in the way of exploration and depth to play. And for those looking for the more traditional Kirby experience, worry not, as there are ample opportunities to unleash and plow through waves of enemies. Mowing them down is as fun as always, and the challenge of mid and main boss fights offers pure satisfaction when victorious. The new aspects, and the familiar, all work well together to offer an overall uniquely deep, remarkably fun experience.
The Kirby style typically means aesthetics saturated in charm, and Kirby & the Amazing Mirror offers it in spades, with its imaginative, inviting visuals and solid sound score. Starting with its visuals, this game simply looks outstanding. The backgrounds and level designs are colorful and appealing, and the spritework is equally impressive. Especially Kirby’s sprites, the depictions and effects of each of Kirby’s powers look great, showing off the cleverness behind the abilities. Enemy and boss designs are just as impressive and offer Kirby some truly unique adversaries. The overall feel of the visuals is lively and charismatic, perfectly capturing that appealing Kirby style. As for the audio, every track is fitting for its environment, adding to the charm and feel of the worlds Kirby traverses. Each piece also does well in its ability to set or emphasize the mood, bringing more immersion and energy to the experience. I also appreciate the mix of familiar and new, as some music borrows from previous works, while others are completely new to the series. A last note, the musical effort as a whole sounds like Kirby; entirely fitting and evoking that particular style and feel we come to expect from a Kirby title.
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror is a mesmerizing journey and an authentically fun romp through one of the most imaginative and deep of the Kirby titles. It’s a gem, and most definitely a must play for any fan of the series. Newcomers, too, will easily find the fun and charm of Kirby in this title, which offers hours of gameplay for those that appreciate fast, high-energy platforming or plenty of exploration. With its simple, enjoyable gameplay and engaging aesthetics, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror will never fail to entertain or brighten any mood. A final note, as of this writing, Nintendo supposedly remains intent to release Kirby & the Amazing Mirror on Nintendo Switch Online. Therefore, I wholeheartedly recommend anyone with interest to keep an eye out, for this is absolutely a Kirby game worth experiencing.
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